Collage of the Present Moment | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Collage of the Present Moment 

An Artist and a Woodworker Reimagine a Saugerties Ranch Home

Last Updated: 01/10/2022 3:29 pm
click to enlarge Marcie Paper and Sean Paige in the family room. Converted from a former porch, the room is awash in light from skylights above and French doors leading to an exterior patio. An abstract painting by Sophia Flood hangs along the back wall. Paper’s hand-sewn and block-printed cushions line the couch. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Marcie Paper and Sean Paige in the family room. Converted from a former porch, the room is awash in light from skylights above and French doors leading to an exterior patio. An abstract painting by Sophia Flood hangs along the back wall. Paper’s hand-sewn and block-printed cushions line the couch.

When Marcie Paper first saw the mid-century brick ranch house, she shuddered. “It was just very dark,” says Paper of the one-story home she now shares with her husband Sean Paige and their two young children. “The floors were dark, the fireplace was dark, and the exterior brick facade was painted grey with dark grouting.”

Built on the grounds of the former Bonesteel Sanitarium, the 1961 home sits on a hill amidst a row of stately Victorians in the village of Saugerties. Adjacent to the Cantine Field athletic complex and park, it’s within walking distance of the high school and local shops—a perfect location for the young family. “We loved the community and the fact that it was walkable,” she explains. “We were really looking for a place for our kids as much as ourselves.”

click to enlarge The couple painted the home’s living room and brick fireplace white. Decorated with Paper’s pillows as well as vintage Kantha quilts, the room also features the family’s growing collection of vintage Christmas ornaments and stockings. Along one wall hang rows of prints created by the couple’s daughter Andi, as well as prints by Sean Noonan, Sophia Flood, Sara Pedigo, Sarah Conrad-Ferm and Zoe Kiff. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • The couple painted the home’s living room and brick fireplace white. Decorated with Paper’s pillows as well as vintage Kantha quilts, the room also features the family’s growing collection of vintage Christmas ornaments and stockings. Along one wall hang rows of prints created by the couple’s daughter Andi, as well as prints by Sean Noonan, Sophia Flood, Sara Pedigo, Sarah Conrad-Ferm and Zoe Kiff.

Even though her initial reaction was one of foreboding, walking through the house brought a different view. “We could see it had lots of potential,” says Paper. Divided up into a warren of rooms, including four bedrooms, five baths, and a finished basement, the home featured mustard-colored wainscoting throughout the main floor, floral wallpaper, and a mid-`90s kitchen decorated with a wine bottle motif.

Still, with 2,600 square feet, an attached garage that could be converted to a workspace, and multiple outbuildings, there was plenty of space to grow. “We realized how easy it would be to open up,” says Paper. It might have been a bit dark, but the home had been well kept by previous owners—it was just in dire need of lightening up.

An Almost Blank Slate

click to enlarge Adjacent to Cantine Field, the home enjoys unobstructed views of the Catskills. “The Cantine family had an agreement with the town to not build - on the land across the street from the property so the views have been preserved,” says Paper. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Adjacent to Cantine Field, the home enjoys unobstructed views of the Catskills. “The Cantine family had an agreement with the town to not buildon the land across the street from the property so the views have been preserved,” says Paper.
Paper and Paige were just the people to undertake the home’s transformation. Paper, an abstract artist from Massachusetts, turned her focus to art full time after beginning her studies as an art therapist at college in Ohio. After receiving an MFA in painting from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Paper moved to Brooklyn, where her colorful geometric designs and intricate patterned motifs soon spilled from the edges of her paintings onto the walls of her city apartment. Inspired by the power of a few simple materials to transform her space, she soon began painting murals for friends and eventually took commissions to create murals in both homes and businesses.

Hailing from Virginia, Paige studied furniture making in college. His extensive background in woodworking and carpentry includes designing and building furniture, fabrication work, and creating window displays. Since moving to the Catskills, Paige has been working with a regional construction firm doing full-scale home and business renovations.

Their first foray into Catskill life began in 2012, when they bought a 5000-square-foot home in Livingston Manor with the idea of turning it into an inn. “Our plan was to renovate it ourselves and make all the furniture and decor,” says Paper. This creative venture inspired her to expand her skills into block printing and textile design, as well as weaving and rug making. She also began handpainting her pattern work onto ceramic tiles.

Paper wove multiple rugs and block printed textiles for both the inn and an adjacent cabin where she and Paige lived part-time while they started their family. They even designed a colorful tiled hearth for the cabin’s wood stove. The two also transformed the kitchen of their Brooklyn apartment, utilizing Paper’s tile work for the kitchen backsplash and Paige’s carpentry skills for counter and cabinetry.

As their family grew, however, they couple realized they had to let their dream of running an inn go. “Once we had kids the area seemed a bit too rural. We loved the community but knew it wouldn’t be enough for the kids as they got older.” They sold the inn, along with its entire contents, including the furniture and the distinct decor they’d created for the space.

click to enlarge Paige and Paper's daughter Andi's room. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Paige and Paper's daughter Andi's room.
“We’d lived there for seven years and everything we’d created was super important to us,” says Paper. “But we thought, ‘What are we going to do with all this? We live in a new house now.’” So, along with the home went seven years of Paper’s creations. “All the quilts, rugs, pillows, and tile work were gone,” says Paper. “But it was fine.” Besides a few family heirlooms and artwork collected from friends, the family moved to their new Saugerties home with an almost blank slate.

click to enlarge In the living room, Paige created a mahogany cube rack with 84 cut-outs to display Paper’s rattle cubes. “The cubes were made from the leftover block printed fabric scraps originally used to make pillow covers,” says Paper. On the adjacent chair is another of Paper’s pillows. Paper hand dyes the pillow fabric then block prints her designs before sewing the pieces into pillow covers. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • In the living room, Paige created a mahogany cube rack with 84 cut-outs to display Paper’s rattle cubes. “The cubes were made from the leftover block printed fabric scraps originally used to make pillow covers,” says Paper. On the adjacent chair is another of Paper’s pillows. Paper hand dyes the pillow fabric then block prints her designs before sewing the pieces into pillow covers.

Brick by Brick

The land their new home is on belonged to the local Cantine family in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was sold to become the Bonesteel Sanitarium, which served as hospital and maternity ward for the wives of soldiers during WWII. After the sanitarium burned down in the 1950s, the smaller, single-family residence was built along the street side of the half-acre lot.
click to enlarge Dining room portrait wall. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Dining room portrait wall.
Through their combined talents, the couple was able to modernize the 1960s construction completely themselves. “We used the mid-century architecture as a foundation but tried not to tie ourselves too tightly to it,” explains Paper.

The first thing Paper and Paige did was to replace the floors with light wood floorboards throughout the main area. The couple tore out the interior wainscoting and repainted both the interior walls and fireplace white. The combined effect of the altered floors and walls lightened up the space considerably. They also removed French doors dividing up the central living space to create a flowing first floor that moves easily from the kitchen to living and dining room. “It’s great with kids, because you can see everything all the time,” says Paper. “We can also have 50 people in here and it doesn’t feel crowded.”

click to enlarge Paper outfitted one of the basement rooms to serve as a small classroom, where she’s started teaching after school art classes to elementary school students. “It’s something I’ve wanted to - do forever,” says Paper. The classes are a mix of instruction exploring various techniques, as well as collaborative and individual creative time. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Paper outfitted one of the basement rooms to serve as a small classroom, where she’s started teaching after school art classes to elementary school students. “It’s something I’ve wanted todo forever,” says Paper. The classes are a mix of instruction exploring various techniques, as well as collaborative and individual creative time.

A step-down covered porch with high ceilings was long ago converted into extra living space. A bright skylight overhead, French doors leading to an enclosed patio and a pass-through window to the adjacent kitchen make it an ideal space for the family to lounge throughout the year. Paper and Paige painted the brick wall white and adjoining walls lime green, filling the space with plants. Two of their children’s paintings hang along the walls.

The Eternal Work in Progress

As quickly as their last space emptied, their new space has been filled with art and color. In the home’s primary bedroom, Paige built the couple’s bed and Paper created a dark pink mural in place of a headboard. The mural’s repeating motif of dark blue, curving lines and rectangles is reminiscent of the hanging plants throughout the home. On an adjacent wall, one of Paige and Paper’s eclectic collections of paintings features a variety of cat and dog portraits in oil, pencil, and acrylic, depicted in both abstract and realistic styles. (Their daughter is allergic, so the family doesn’t have any actual pets.)
click to enlarge Paper created a mural for the couple’s bedroom wall. Paper’s mural work has become the main focus of her practice. “It’s what I love to do the most,” she says. Her mural work is featured locally throughout Saugerties in Josie’s Coffee Shoppe, Headspace Salon, Chambers Vintage, and the Rug Shop. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Paper created a mural for the couple’s bedroom wall. Paper’s mural work has become the main focus of her practice. “It’s what I love to do the most,” she says. Her mural work is featured locally throughout Saugerties in Josie’s Coffee Shoppe, Headspace Salon, Chambers Vintage, and the Rug Shop.

During the pandemic, Paper participated in the Artist’s Support Pledge project. “Every time a participating artist made $1,000 selling work, they pledged to spend $200 buying work from another artist,” says Paper. “It was such a great boost to sell my work, and also support the work of other artists all over the world.” It had the added benefit of filling Paper and Paige’s once blank walls with art.

Now interspersed with her own recent abstract paintings is an assemblage of photography and mixed media works, along with ceramics and Paige’s woodwork. Paper’s block printed textile designs adorn the couches and many of her rugs, with designs inspired from her abstract paintings, line the floors.

click to enlarge Paper's art studio. - WINONA BARTON-BALLENTINE
  • Winona Barton-Ballentine
  • Paper's art studio.

The couple recently converted the attached garage into a large workspace for Paper, complete with space for painting, yarn dying, block printing, and textile design. (Another room in the home’s basement is reserved for sewing and weaving.) Outside, Paige recently whitewashed the brick exterior and relined the original garage door with a light wood. Rectangular cut-out windows offer views from Paper’s workspace to the Catskills. Downstairs, Paper has converted another of the basement rooms into a workshop where she’s begun teaching local art classes to children.

Next, the couple hopes to turn their attention to the home’s kitchen. They plan to update the open-concept space with Paper’s hand-painted ceramics and Paige’s cabinet making skills, making it distinctly their own. “The house is a work in progress,” says Paper. “We love it though. We often thank our lucky stars we found it and we’re here.”

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